I am rapt with attention. I am hitting the refresh button again and again. There is a kind of fascination, a fixation; it is a car crash in slow motion, taking place in front of millions. Even my apathetic hipster friends are overcome by it. We text message one another about warm fronts. A nation of amateur weathermen. A nation of rubberneckers. No one is immune. The Siren call of the hurricane was not intended to bring the prey to her, but rather an invitation to be a voyeur as the giant stumbled her last steps through the Mississippi Delta. I am still dumbstruck by the photographs. Entire neighborhoods are a collage of construction materials and beloved possessions, the abstract artistic piece de la resistance of a particularly avant-garde god.
I am beside myself when I turn on the radio or find a news website. The woman crying on an island hillhock beside the still-warm body of her husband; the blank face of the man trying to disbelieve the Hiroshima landscape that occupies the spot of his neighborhood. Both people are residents of the wealthiest nation on Earth. Wealthier than the rest of the nations in the top ten put together. They will eat a military ration for dinner tonight if they are lucky. Tonight they will sleep on a cot in a football stadium-cum-refugee camp if they are lucky.
It is black comedy now to look at the guarantees of disaster in National Geographic, in Popular Science, on the websites of New Orleans newspapers. New Orleans would be completely inundated by a hurricane. We buy the magazines and we duly acknowledge the inevitable disaster. But nothing is done. The man on the radio says that all of this was our fault, because we saw it coming. A nation complicit.
Why are we compelled to build in these places again and again? A million dollar house on Cape Hatteras, an art museum on a cliff in Southern California, a riverboat casino at the mouth of the Mississippi River where it kisses the Gulf of Mexico. All of them await the next hurricane or landslide or flood. Our American culture has embraced disposability to its fullest extent. This week we threw away a hundred million beer cans, ten million empty gallons of milk and one historic city. We will build it again. We will make newer and better levees. We will spend millions on machine panaceas and brilliant engineers to buttress our stubbornness. We will shake hands for the cameras and cut ribbons. We will help our own city to start over. The Gulf of Mexico will continue to make hurricanes. Cliffs in California will continue to fall. The Mississippi River will continue to callously run over its banks. We will learn nothing. We will push the ball to the top and watch it roll down the other side. A nation of Sisyphusians.
The man on the television lives in the richest country on Earth. He is hip deep in brown water, towing on an air mattress his mother who floats past a half-submerged SUV. He has been in the water for three days. I am writing the Red Cross a check, and I only get angrier as I do it. I don't know who to be angry with.
Sorry I didn't talk about games this time.